View Full Version : Well water to a trailer house (freeze up?)

02-03-2011, 03:12 PM
The trailer park where I live has two deep wells that provide our water. Last summer I finally got under the house where the water pipe comes up out of the ground and discovered that there was a heat tape on it - with a drop cord & a multi-plug strip like you'd use on a computer. THAT explained why my cold water always ran hot when I hadn't used it for a while! I just left it on, as I was worried that I'd forget to turn it back on in the fall.

Now I'm worried what happens if the power goes off in this bitterly cold winter, or if the tape wears out. Would there be a way to insulate it enough to keep it from freezing in that case? Can I safely insulate OVER a heat tape? I suspect my original plumber was Rube Goldberg's stupid cousin - and I don't want to make things worse than they already are!

02-03-2011, 04:21 PM
Best way to prevent freeze up if power does go out is just let it run real slow or just a slow drip. I sometimes have to allow ours to do this. I let it drip in tub serves two purposes our hose is built on post and beams and in prolonged cold the water line will sometimes freeze(even with heat tape) and the trap for the tub will also freeze

02-03-2011, 04:27 PM
CarolAnn, I hesitate to make any suggestions, but I do have a few comments.

-If you rent the trailer and space, the water will probably be the landlord's responsibility. Worth checking the lease agreement.

-A heat tape that gets warm enough to make hot water run from the cold tap might be dangerous. They should only heat the pipe up to about 40 degrees or so, and then the built-in thermostat should shut it off. It could be the thermostat doesn't touch the pipe or maybe the heat tape is faulty.

-If the inlet pipe to the trailer is steel, the heat to the pipe is less of a problem. If it is plastic, they make a special tape for that so the PVC doesn't get too warm and get soft enough to rupture.

-That power strip doesn't sound like a very good idea to me. It is asking for trouble from corrosion causing at least intermittent operation, and at worst creating a fire hazard.

-Since the tape seems to get pretty hot, putting anything flammable next to it could be a problem. I'd only use fiberglass bats with no paper backing. Plastic or foam can melt or catch fire.

-On the bright side, if your water hasn't frozen this winter, something is good about that heat tape!

02-03-2011, 07:17 PM
I had the same sort of set up under my trailer, left behind by previous tenants. Then came the achingly cold winter of 93-94 and everything froze up. I can remember a miserable couple of days under there cutting out and removing the ruptured pipes - both supply and drain lines, ugh! - and piecing in new pipes bit by bit up through the little trusses.

When I got the new pipes in, I wrapped them both with heat tape made special for pvc piping, and then covered them with fiberglass roll insulation. I ran the plugs to a gfci plug that was wired to a thermostat. Worked great for the rest of the time I lived there.

Here's another neat little trick: I took a regular smoke detector and using a soldering iron I removed the buzzer part. Then I soldered thermostat wire to the connections where the buzzer had been. I mounted the detector part under the trailer near the heat tapes and ran the thermostat wire up into the kitchen, where I soldered on the buzzer and mounted it in a cabinet. That way I was sure I would hear the detector if anything went wrong under the trailer. Great peace of mind! Just make sure to crawl under and change out the battery every six months.

02-08-2011, 11:29 AM
Thank you all for the excellent advice. I own the trailer, but rent the lot. The pipe is galvanized, so even with a really hot tape, it should be OK that way. I didn't know how hot the tape should get, so I will be replacing it AND the power strip.

The smoke detector is a fantastic idea. I'm not at all sure I have the skills to manage it, but I'll talk to my handy brothers!

02-08-2011, 12:06 PM
We have a well house that can freeze up on particularly cold nights. The problem isn't so much the pump or tank, it's the pipe coming from the tank before it goes underground. The last folks that owned the place used a light with 100 watt bulb. It wasn't so much a matter of warming the pipe, but keeping the air around the pipe above freezing. That worked okay, but had some drawbacks. It was easier to get at than your crawlspace under the trailer - a good thing because we would run through 4-5 bulbs in a winter. The light and the heat it made drew bugs and caused mold problems.

This year we did some work on the well house and it is not insulated as well as I would like, but we tried a new gadget on the pipes. It is a thermostatically controlled tape. The thermostat controls when the tape turns on and off - all solid state so no switches to wear out. The tape wraps around the pipe, 4"x1/2" fiberglass insulation tape wraps around that, and plastic around the entire thing. The tape, called EasyHeat (http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Heat-AHB-013-Weather-Heating/dp/B002YFAHAW/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1297177148&sr=8-4), comes in varying lengths.

I'm not big on something running all the time, like the heater tape you described or the bulbs we used to use.

Alternatives are to make a box/sleeve around your pipe with wood or other materials. If it is insulated (fiberglass, styrofoam, etc) so much the better. The goal is to protect it from the outside temp, and heat leakage from the floor may be enough to keep the interior of the sleeve well above freezing. At the very least it reduces and contains the area that needs to be maintained above freezing on a cold day/night. An ideal setup would be something that can be controlled and operated (on/off) from inside the trailer. A cadillac system would have a thermometer that tells you the temperature (inside the trailer) of the area under the trailer around the pipe.

You do have skirting around the trailer, right? To contain heat leakage from the floor to the space under the trailer?


02-10-2011, 02:15 PM
I do have skirting, but I doubt if it's much more than a wind break. I'd love something that actually insulated and was tight - but this stuff is a cheap layer of plastic molded to look like vertical siding.

With a 10-year old trailer, it's hard to know what is a good investment - and what's not - so I've got to balance the cost of new skirting against what it would save in heat bills. My heat bills are actually pretty low already due to the excellent wall and ceiling insulation. The one linoleum floor gets cold by the door - so that's probably telling me I need to do something there as well.

I like the EasyHeat idea - but if the power goes off, it won't do much good, either! (That's my original fear - the power goes off due to snow on the power lines)

02-10-2011, 06:37 PM
The skirting has very little to do with your water not freezing as its more of a wind-break and appearance feature than anything else. Pipe wrap is the best plan


even if wrapped, you should--for safety and economic sake--leave one or two faucets drip anytime the temps drop down below freezing.

I figure that my dripping costs me less than 5 bucks a month as I pay my water usage. If your lot rent includes water as ours used to then no biggie--let'er drip!
As such--my dripping probably is somewhere around 15 bucks a year or less. Yours--being up north would be perhaps double but still cheaper than a plumber--right?

ALSO--whether your water heater is electric or gas--its best to shut it off if a known storm is coming--winter or summer as they tend to be ruined when they lack or get low on water such as a pipe break as they will just keep on heating many times until they burn out. Mine is total electric and if shut down the water heater will reheat in a matter of a few minutes and will remain hot for about a day even when shut down.

Most trailers are semi-enclosed on the bottom with heavy duty plastic wrap from the factory, so most is sort of okay and trouble free except for the pipes out in the open where they come up thru the ground and connect to your trailer connections--both inlet and outlet.

02-11-2011, 08:31 AM
Rubatex foam rubber pipe insulation for refrigeration is the best fo;;owed by the gray foam at the hardware and then the fiberglass pipe wrap. The thermostat should be wrapped with the pipe so it sees the pipe temperature and not the air temperature. When it is below zero run a couple of gallons of water every hour or 2 to bring ground temp water into the pipes especially when the pipes are in an outside wall

With the current materials I would replace frozen pipes with PEX tubing and 'home run' all connections with 3/8's OD for a one size fits all solution and ease in maintenance.

I am not fond of plugstrips, read the watts and use the right sized extension cord. There are remote thermometers, tucking the sensor next to the pipe is probably worth the $1 to $10 that they cost to see that the heat tape is working.